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Once the Bride and Groom Walk into the Sunset, the Honeymoon Phase Begins

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Newlyweds toasting a life together will find beautiful landscapes—and glorious vintages—in California wine country.

Both the Sonoma and Napa valleys are an easy trek from San Francisco and are drenched in food and drink, as well as outdoor activities to burn those calories. Think biking, kayaking and hiking.

Despite their proximity, each valley has its own distinct personality.

Napa, often referred to as Disneyland for adults, has more glitz. Imagine traffic jams of chauffeur-driven limousines bearing wine tasters through tiny, picturesque villages.

Sonoma is more laid-back. Star-gazing and harvesting grapes are traditional activities.

Like many destinations, California wine country is most crowded in summer, least crowded in winter and somewhere in the middle during spring and fall.

There are more than 400 wineries in Napa and more than 200 in Sonoma, so you might think there is no shortage of opportunities to taste. But the majority are privately held and open only by appointment. So do call ahead as you are creating your itinerary.

Enjoy a Taste of
Delaware at Bouchaine

Blend Art, Architecture and
Wine with a trip to Artesa Winery

Lovers of Sparkling Wine
Should Visit Sonoma

Explore Napa Valley
by Train or by Air

Napa Valley Wineries
Directory

East Coast Wineries
Directory

Delaware Wineries
Directory

 

 

Roots in Delaware

Bouchaine is the oldest continuously operating winery in Carneros, a cool, breezy region near San Pablo Bay that traverses both Napa and Sonoma.

The winery’s roots run all the way to Delaware. Its proprietors are Garrett and Tatiana Copeland, who fell in love with the site more than 30 years ago and rejuvenated a once-tired winery into a boutique house celebrated for its award-winning pours.

Honeymooners who want an experience off the beaten path can dodge the crowds at large commercial tasting rooms and sample wines directly from the barrel. Visitors can pick up maps in the tasting room for self-guided tours of the vineyard, whose topography is distinguished by a striking double hill depicted on the Bouchaine label.

The property also is home to glorious gardens. The idea is to savor the bouquet of the flowers, as well as the bouquet of the wines.

“As I look out at Bouchaine’s vineyards, I am tempted to linger here, enjoying the countryside with a glass of our Estate Pinot Noir,” says Tatiana Copeland, who was deeply involved with the design and development of the gardens. “I want our visitors to experience the same, deep connection to the land and the wine at Bouchaine that I do.”

Weather permitting, visitors can tour the vineyards on safari, traversing the property in an open truck. Safaris are offered April through October. Reserve a spot at least two weeks in advance.

A unique joy of honeymooning in wine country is discovering wines that aren’t readily available at home. Newlyweds will fall in love with Bouchaine’s Bacchus Collection. Chene D’Argent—French for “silver oak”—is a 2010 Chardonnay fermented in stainless steel rather than oak barrels, resulting in crisp, citrusy notes of lime and pineapple. The 2011 Syrah from Bouchaine’s Rockin’ H Vineyard in Sonoma is lush with tones of black cherry balanced with hints of black pepper and dark chocolate.

To learn more, click here.

 

Art, Architecture, Artesa

Owned by the Raventos family of Spanish winemakers, Artesa Winery is the American cousin of the fifth-oldest winery in the world.

Sited in the highest reaches of Napa, Artesa is a contemporary architectural marvel, set into a 350-foot hillside, a design providing natural insulation. Visitors enter via a staircase bordered on each side with cascading waterfalls. Artesa also offers an art gallery featuring glass and metal works by sculptor Gordon Huether, the winery’s artist-in-residence.

There are a variety of tours and tastings, including pairings of chocolates and red wines, caviar and tapas with sparkling wines, and artisan cheeses with limited release and reserve wines.

“The ultimate wine tasting is incredibly romantic,” says Michael McKinley, tasting room manager. “There’s a candlelit path leading to the barrel room, where the only light is 50 flickering candles.”

There, visitors will taste select wines that are produced in lots of 700 cases or less. Artesa focuses on premium still wines, but retains its founding tradition as a house for sparkling wines with a limited selection of bubblies. To uncork memories of your Napa experience, bring home Codorniu Grand Reserve, a sparkler with notes of stone fruit, citrus and tart apple, with a hint of mineral.

Artesa is a short bike ride away from Carneros Inn, where accommodations include luxury cottages with such niceties as fireplaces, 800-thread count sheets, bathrooms with heated slate floors and outdoor showers. Some cottages also boast fire pits and claw-foot tubs for an alfresco soak. The zen-meets-rustic style of the architecture is often referred to as “farm shui.”

To learn more, click here.  

 

Sparkling Sonoma

Nestled in Sonoma’s scenic Russian River Valley, J Vineyards & Winery is known for its sparkling wines.

Tasting rooms and terraces have a streamlined, modern vibe. J’s celebrated Bubble Room is the setting for a five-course repast that pairs wines not readily available on the East Coast with locally sourced gourmet dishes. A few nibbles from the menu: risotto with pecorino cheese and truffles; duo of pork with cauliflower purée and cabbage napoleon; and house-made goat cheese mousse. Price: $75 per person.

“It’s an elegant and relaxed educational experience, with fabulous wine and food, as well as great views,” says spokesman George Rose. “People enjoy learning more about the wines they drink.”

In the spirit of champagne, J’s sparklers are made from chardonnay, pinot meunier and pinot noir grapes. To celebrate at home, pop the cork on J’s Cuvee 20 Brut, lively with citrus and smoothed with notes of brioche, and Brut Rose, lush with strawberry tones and a creamy finish.

“People whose name starts with ‘J’ often have a bottle on display at all times,” he says.

To learn more, click here. 

 

By Rail or Air

Honeymooners can leave the car behind and tour wine country by rail on the Napa Valley Wine Train, which departs from historic McKinstry Street Station in Napa and chugs through such charming stops as Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, and St. Helena.

The train stops at three wineries along the 36-mile route. Passengers can reserve winery tours in advance or stay aboard and explore the train.

Diners enjoy lunch or dinner in one of two meticulously restored cars, a 1915 Pullman outfitted with Honduran mahogany and brass or a 1952 Vista Dome, a posh, glassed-topped observation car.

The movable feast includes such gourmet fare as smoked salmon crepe with crème fraiche, American caviar and honey onion marmalade and grilled quail on mozzarella polenta with red chard in a shiitake mushroom jus. Prices start at $114 for train fare, a multi-course lunch and a glass of California sparkling wine.

The train also is accessible by ferry from San Francisco for day trips. Guests on the luncheon train can leave San Francisco at 8:30 a.m. and be back in the City by the Bay by 7 p.m.

Honeymooners can rise above it all in a hot air balloon that offers a bird’s-eye view of wine country. Founded in 1980, Napa Valley Balloons is the oldest operator but there are a number to choose from.

Flights depart at sunrise from the Domaine Chandon Winery in Yountville. Certified pilots guide balloons that can accommodate as few as two passengers, up to a group of 16.

Back on terra firma, couples enjoy a champagne breakfast at Domaine Chandon’s Etoile restaurant. Prices start at $215 per person for a one-hour air voyage and post-flight dining.

To learn more, click here. 

 

Resources

Artesa Vineyards & Winery Tastings, tours and wine sales and club memberships. 707.224.1668, artestawinery.com

Bouchaine Vineyards Tastings, tours, wine sales and club memberships. 707.252.9065, bouchaine.com

Carneros Inn Accommodations, dining, spa. 888.400.9000, thecarnerosinn.com

J Vineyards & Winery Tastings, tours, wine sales and club memberships. 888.594.6326, jwine.com

Napa Valley Balloons Balloon rides, after-flight breakfast. 800.253.2224, napavalleyballoons.com

Napa Valley Wine Train Train rides, dining and winery tours. Departures from Napa. 800.427.4124, winetrain.com

To learn more, click here.  

 

Sippng on the East Coast

The West Coast isn’t the only region for wine. Here are a few destinations to explore on the East Coast:

St. Augustine/Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. He loves the links. She loves the drinks. This laid-back destination in northern Florida will keep them both happy. The Players Championship is held each May in Ponte Vedra at the stadium course at TPC Saw Grass. The World Golf Hall of Fame is in St. Augustine, a chip shot from San Sebastian Winery, home to The Cellar Upstairs, a rooftop jazz club.

Finger Lakes Region, N.Y. There are more than 100 wineries and breweries in upstate New York, most open year-round. Tour on your own or by party bus. Accommodations range from tiny bed-and-breakfast inns to large resorts and spas.

Asheville, N.C. Entry to Biltmore Winery and Antler Village is included in admission to Biltmore Mansion, historic home to the Vanderbilts and the largest residence in America. There are a half-dozen other wineries in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, including Lake James Cellars, located in an old textile mill, and Addison Farms, where grapes grow in a former tobacco field.

To learn more, click here.

 

Delaware Wineries

Here’s a toast to the First State:

Fenwick Wine Cellars The newest winery in Delaware, Fenwick offers a Tuscan vibe. In addition to tastings and a retail shop, the winery is a venue for events. 38016 Fenwick Shoals Blvd., Selbyville,  436.1500, fenwickwinecellars.com

Harvest Ridge Winery Family-owned, on the Mason-Dixon Line. Available for wedding receptions and other events. 447 Westville Rd., Marydel, 343.9437, harvestridgewinery.com

Nassau Valley Vineyards Delaware’s first winery. Tastings and self-guided tours. Available for events of up to 400 guests. 32165 Winery Way, Lewes, 645.9463, nassauvalley.com

Pizzadili Vineyards and Winery 1683 Peach Basket Road, Felton. Modeled after Italian wineries. Tastings, tours and private events. Gift shop. 284.9463, pizzadiliwinery.com

To learn more, click here.